The Maharashtra government has launched an online course for corporate firms, their employees and supervisors to deal with complaints of sexual harassment at workplace after a preliminary survey showed that awareness about the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, remains low.
In 2018, the sexual harassment allegation by actress Tanushree Dutta against co-actor Nana Patekar led to a social media storm that strengthened the #MeToo movement in India. While the Maharashtra State Commission for Women received 22 sexual harassment complaints by women in in 2017-18, it received 17 complaints the following year.
“But not every woman comes out to complain. This is a small fraction that approaches us. That is why strengthening internal committee in the office is necessary,” a member of the commission said.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace (POSH) Act mandates a company with more than 10 employees to have an internal complaint committee. According to women commission chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar, a survey of members of internal complaint committee of multiple organisations showed there was need to train their members and also increase awareness about sexual harassment among employees.
The state government also want uniform guidelines for internal complaint committee to be followed in order to standardised the process of addressing complaints.
The eight-hour course, created by SAF India Academy, has animated videos, reading material, exercises to interact for employees and monologues. The course explains the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act and different legal remedies to an employee. The course also explains precursors to sexual harassment, situation and gender bias that may encourage women to be suppressed in an office ecosystem and how an organisation can ensure its employees feel safe at work.
The Maharashtra State Commission for Women launched the certification course on August 14 and so far 300 people have registered.
A commission member said they hope that corporate companies will introduce the course in their orientation programme for every employee. “The course is meant for both employees and committee members. Its explains how consent can be misinterpreted or how power can be misused,” said Sheetal Bapat, education expert, who helped create the module.
“While we have been training government offices about this Act, it is difficult to reach out to the vast private sector. The online training course is aimed to cover them,” an official from the commission said.